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DIA hires new diversity, inclusion, equity director

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The Detroit Institute of Arts has hired a new diversity, equity and inclusion administrator to implement and lead those efforts at the museum.

Carla Tinsley-Smith, previously a manager of diversity and inclusion at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, was hired in late June to become the museum's first Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access. 

“Cultural organizations have a duty and responsibility to create a welcoming, accessible, inclusive and respectful environment for the communities they serve,” said Tinsley-Smith in a press release. “As a native Detroiter and art enthusiast, I am grateful to the DIA search committee for this opportunity. I look forward to journeying with staff, leadership, and the board of directors to support the IDEA strategy, its implementation and assessment for long-term transformation.”

The DIA has hired a new director of inclusion, diversity, equity and access.

Tinsley-Smith's hiring comes as the museum has been under fire in recent years from critics for its work environment and tone-deaf approach with the communities it serves.

A report last year by Washington, D.C.-based law firm Crowell and Moring studied issues of race, gender, retaliation, leadership style and culture at the DIA after a complaint by the nonprofit legal organization Whistleblower Aid was filed with the Internal Revenue Service and Michigan Attorney General. The complaint centered around the loan of an El Greco painting to the museum by Director Salvatore Salort-Pons' father-in-law.

The DIA last fall said an investigation cleared Salort-Pons and board Chairman Eugene A. Gargaro Jr. of all accusations.

In her new role, Tinsley-Smith will lead the implementation and management of effective IDEA strategies throughout the museum, according to a press release.

“As our nation’s attention has been drawn to inequity and systemic racism over the past year, it is critical that we move forward with the internal work that needs to be conducted," said Salort-Pons in a statement to The Detroit News. "Our entire staff has been deeply engaged in this work over the last year and now this new position will help the DIA apply this internal learning throughout our governance, programming, exhibitions, and overall visitor experience for real growth and change.”

Carla Tinsley-Smith has been named the DIA's new director of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.

Aside from her work at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tinsley-Smith also serves on several regional boards and advisory councils, including the Wayne County Women’s Commission, Mack Alive Community Resource Center, Michigan Diversity Council Advisory Board and Greening of Detroit.

Along with hiring Tinsley-Smith, the DIA has taken other steps to boost its diversity and inclusion efforts. A staff-wide inclusion survey was conducted late last year that led to facilitated workgroup discussions across all departments. The museum also has been working to diversify its board of directors and acquire more art by Black artists.